View Full Version : Characteristics of good handle wood

11-21-2010, 11:08 PM
Hey folks just a question on what characteristics do you look in the wood you use for your knife handles? do you look for toughness, beauty, durability, weight.... etc. I know iron wood is commonly used and it is hard, beatiful would this be the ideal for you?

11-22-2010, 06:44 AM
I'm glad you asked this question.

Not to the handle stage yet, but will need to know this stuff
when I do get there.

Looking forward to the answers.

James Terrio
11-22-2010, 08:19 AM
Ironwood is an excellent choice, it is also getting more expensive almost by the day it seems.

A lot of choosing wood comes down to personal preference, maybe the most important factor is the wood being properly "Seasoned" and dry. As an extreme example, if you cut a piece of branch off a live tree and put it directly on a knife, it's pretty much guaranteed to split, crack and do other unpleasant things as it dries. Even when I buy blocks from a reputable dealer, I like to leave them at a fairly constant temp and humidity for a few months to let them "settle". This isn't very scientific but it gives me a little extra peace of mind.

11-22-2010, 08:53 AM
I'm still very very new to all this, so I have been making my choices based on color and grain. Some stabilized, some not and will have to be sealed...

11-24-2010, 09:00 AM
If you're not going with stabilized materials, then you want wood to be a) dry, b) hard enough to withstand normal handling wear, c) attractive enough to use on a knife. With respect to hardness, the test I use is how easily it is for me to put a dent in the wood with my thumbnail. Some maples--silver maple (sold in the lumber section at the big box stores), big leaf maple, etc.--are pretty soft, and knife handles made with them will show dings after some use. Sugar maple is much harder, and so far for me has been more durable. As far as attractiveness, you just have to decide what appeals to you as far as color and grain patterns, and how it fits with the overall design of the knife. Some relatively plain walnut or maple can look nice if mosaic pins or other embellishments are added.

11-24-2010, 02:18 PM
Thanks guys very helpgul. Another question what about wood blanks? what size is normal?

Cliff Fendley
11-24-2010, 05:57 PM
They vary in size but around 5inch x1 1/2-1/3/4 seems fairly common. Close to an inch thick or around 3/8 if scales.

Hard and dense woods are ideal.

A agree with James, I like to have any natural material for a while before using it. I prefer at least a year and two or three years is better. Even then when I drill and fit a handle to a blade I like to let it sit for about a month in case the wood or stag wants to move from the drilling and rough shaping. After that I glue it up and hope it's happy where it's at. That's why I'll have a lot of unfinished knives laying on my bench from time to time.

11-28-2010, 12:03 AM
thanks Cliff. I should be patient then lol

12-01-2010, 12:35 PM
My biggest problem is suiting the handle material to the blade. Some knives just don't seem to want this color or that grain pattern, or the handle material I like doesn't go with the liner colors or steel type...

I like to have a decent variety of woods, micarta, and some antler, to pick from.

Rick O'Shea
12-01-2010, 01:09 PM
I have really enjoyed using Dymondwood and Micarta. They are easy to work with, look great and are incredibly durable. They certainly aren't 'traditional' handle materials but I think they serve their purpose.